UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
 
July 20, 2007
 
In Reply Refer To:
1400-300, 9210 (700) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 07/24/2007
Instruction Memorandum No. 2007-155
Expires: 09/30/2008
 
To:                   ADs, SDs, and CDs
                        Attn: Human Resources Officers
 
From:               Assistant Director, Human Capital Management
                       
Subject:            Change in Crediting Coursework for Meeting the Positive Educational Requirements for GS-401 Fire Management Positions DD: 07/27/2007
 
Program Area:  Fire Management Specialist Positions.
 
Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) transmits guidance and information on reviewing the placement of employees into GS-401 Fire Management Specialist positions using the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) and Technical Fire Management (TFM) coursework that is not listed on an official transcript from an accredited college or university.  
 
Policy/Action: State Human Resource Officers (HROs) need to review the placement of employees into GS-401 Fire Management positions to identify which employees (from February 15, 2005, to the present) used NWCG and TFM courses that were not listed on an official transcript from an accredited college or university as some of their education to qualify for the GS-401 position. This information will be gathered and the results forward to Fire and Aviation FA-202, at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) by July 27, 2007, on the previously provided spreadsheet. FA-202 will consolidate the responses and forward them to WO-700.
 
States should also ensure that for current vacancies and certificates, they are only qualifying applicants for GS-401 positions who have the necessary education on an official transcript.
 
Once fire season has subsided, HROs and managers can begin working with potentially impacted employees to identify options for obtaining the college coursework/credits needed to meet the 24 credit hours of progressive coursework to qualify them for GS-401 Fire Management Specialist positions. There is no immediate need to reassign employees who were appointed erroneously to GS-401 positions. 
 
Background: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) changed the Operating Manual for Qualifications Standards for General Schedule Positions, effective February 15, 2005, to address the “Acceptability of Higher Education for Meeting Minimum Qualification Requirements.” The OPM changes address Congressional concerns about the issue of diploma mills to meet positive education requirements. These changes have a significant impact on positions covered by the Supplemental Standard for Fire Management Specialist positions in the GS-401 Fire Management series.
 
With this change from the OPM and the memo from the Department, you can only credit educational coursework that is listed on an official transcript from an accredited college or university. This eliminates the use of NWCG and TFM coursework not listed on an official transcript from an accredited college or university. While the OPM identified this issue, they concur that moving ahead during the 2007 fire season is not appropriate and have indicated that they recognize that the bureaus need to work with employees to help them resolve issues associated with the coursework. The OPM is most interested in knowing that we have correctly identified the cases where this has occurred and are working toward a common sense solution with minimal impact to our employees.
 
The BLM is also working with the Department and the other Fire bureaus to pursue a number of options with the OPM. We are determining if the OPM will allow us to use the American Council on Education (ACE) to evaluate and approve the NWCG courses for use as credit hours as was previously done. Additionally, NIFC is working with several universities to see if NWCG and TFM courses could be added to transcripts and used by employees to qualify for GS-401 positions.  
 
Timeframe: HROs need to begin gathering accurate information on the extent to which BLM employees in GS-401 Fire Management Specialist positions are affected by this change. HROs need to submit their information to Fire and Aviation, FA-202, at NIFC by July 27, 2007.
 
Budget Impact:  The budgetary impact is unknown until after the States have had the opportunity to review how the changes may impact employees.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  None.
 
Coordination:  This document was coordinated with AD-400, AD-700, NIFC and the State HROs. 
 
Contact:  If you have any questions concerning this IM, please contact Linda Behlin, WO-700 at (202) 501-6723,  Sandra Berain, NIFC at (208) 387-55143, Cindy Pogue, NIFC, at (208) 387-5951, or Wendy Little, NIFC, at (208) 387-5564.
 
Signed by:                                                                   
Authenticated by:
Linda Y. Berlin                                                
Robert M. Williams
Acting, Assistant Director                                            
Division of IRM Governance, WO-560
Human Capital Management